Captain Corruption\'s Commentary

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hillary Clinton endorses Grant Theft Auto

Well, not quite, but she certainly did give them plenty of free press so she could do a little grandstanding. Here ya go, as usual reprinted with no permission:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton pressed Thursday for a government investigation into how simulated sex cropped up in a modified version of the blockbuster criminal adventure video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."

Clinton asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the origins of a downloadable modification that allows simulated sex in the personal computer version of one of the most popular and controversial video games in history.

"We should all be deeply disturbed that a game which now permits the simulation of lewd sexual acts in an interactive format with highly realistic graphics has fallen into the hands of young people across the country," Clinton wrote in a letter to the head of the Federal Trade Commission.

Saying the problem of explicit video games was "spiraling out of control," Clinton also said she was introducing legislation that would crack down on the sale of violent and sex-laden games to minors.

The legislation would impose a $5,000 penalty on retailers who sell adult-rated video games to underage children.

Clinton asked the FTC to look into whether Grand Theft Auto's rating of "M" (Mature 17+) should be changed to the rare "AO" (Adult Only), which would threaten to crimp sales at large retail outlets.

The PlayStation2 version of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" was the No. 1 game of 2004, selling just over 5 million copies, according to industry researcher NPD Funworld.

She requested the agency to study whether retailers' enforcement policies were adequate to keep adult-rated video games out of the hands of minors.

An FTC spokeswoman said the agency had received Clinton's letter and was reviewing it.

Clinton's comments were the latest in a chorus of criticism that has intensified since the revelation about sex scenes in the modified Grand Theft Auto. The game series has drawn numerous detractors because of its sexual and violent content.

Players who download a modification, known as "hot coffee," from the Internet can make a male character engage in various sex acts with a virtual "girlfriend." Sex is suggested in the official version of the game, but does not happen on screen.

The game's manufacturer, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. called Rockstar Games, has said hackers are responsible for the modification.

In a statement released Thursday, Rockstar said it supported the video game rating system and efforts to keep adult-rated games away from children.

But without referring to Clinton, the company said it was "disappointed by comments that misrepresent Grand Theft Auto, detracting from the innovative and artistic merits of the game."

"Unfortunately, the recent confusion only serves to suggest that games do not deserve the same treatment as other forms of creative expression," Rockstar said in its statement.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board last week launched a probe into whether the sexual minigame content was deliberately hidden in the game code and unlocked by the "hot coffee" modification, or if it was solely the result of the modification.

The "hot coffee" modification, which violates the game's software user agreement, is the result of hackers disassembling and then combining, recompiling and altering the game's source code, Rockstar said.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the story is the grand old puritan America double standard. Hillary had no problem with the game when it merely contained graphic violence, but as soon as there was sex involved it was time for her to take action.

What really cracks me up is how helpful protests and calls for bans are for any product's bottom line. Any publicity is good publicity, and yet the morality police can't contain themselves and eagerly offer up free publicity to the very product they claim to despise. Really, its just grandstanding of course, and an equal opportunity for the grandstander to grab a few moments in the spotlight, rake in a few more donations, and pretend to be doing the bidding of her constituency.

The exploitation of this phenomenon is certainly one of the big reasons I'm a Marilyn Manson fan. He set out with utter determination to make sure the morality police couldn't ignore him. I remember my first encounter with the Manson phenomenon... Prior to his becoming a household name he opened at a Nine Inch Nails concert I went to, and he sold the greatest Rock n Roll t-shirt of all time IMO. In bold four inch letters easy to see from a distance it read:


Upon closer inspection, though, the fine one inch print between the lines made the message more clear:

Warning, the music of Marilyn Manson may
in your impressionable teenage minds.
This may cause you to
and in the ultimate act of Rock and Roll rebellion you might
so please burn our records while you still have hope

Pure marketing brilliance.

Manson even admitted he was all about the marketing several times, including in the first line of the album that made him a household name, Antichrist Superstar. "I am so all American I'll sell you suicide." What's the action phrase of that sentence, kids? That's right, I'll sell you. That was his entire point, and every protest outside of one of his concerts ensured a sell out and a clearing of the local record store shelves. Brilliant and well done. The only thing that could have harmed him was to have been ignored, and puritans in this country aren't capable of ignoring such a train wreck, so they played right into his hands.

Of course, its an old story, as old a story as stories go, and I could go on and on with examples. I will close instead by mentioning Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center who in the 80's did wonders for the music industry with their "porn rock" hearings. They provided the industry with one of its greatest marketing tools to date, a cultural icon that became an essential requirement for the packaging of any hit record:

"If the human body's obscene, complain to the manufacturer, not me."
-- Larry Flynt

"Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest form of cowardice."
-- Holbrook Jackson

"To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it."
-- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, 1559

"Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there."
-- Clare Booth Luce


Blogger Jami said...

marilyn manson's role in jawbreaker was hilarious.

hillary's against the violence in GTA, for children, too. she spoke out against it a while back. hated it.

she's not grandstanding. if you do a technorati search for hillary clinton, you'll see that this GTA thing isn't exactly a super-win, since everyone who doesn't have kids yet (and thus has lots of time for the internet) doesn't understand. i have a much-younger sibling, and seeing the e-mail spam she got in the early days of the internet was pretty horrible. little kids shouldn't be looking at the hot coffee mod. there's no harm in figuring out how to prevent that from happening.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Captain Corruption said...

Thanks for the feed back!

Ahh but the solution is quite simple - parental responsibility.

Parents can and should completely control what media their children access. I would personally suggest no unfilitered internet access for children, and most definately no unsupervised internet access for children. Keep the internet terminal in a public room in the house, and nose around through those e-mail addy's. Your house, your computer, your business.

Lock out the cable channels you don't want them seeing, or better yet save the monthly expense and don't have cable.

And if you don't want them playing violent video games, an attitude I wholeheartedly support, then forbid it.

Hey, I used to run a videogame retailing store. For discrimination liability purposes (say no to one person and yes to the next and whammo, you're sued) we had no official corporate policy on mature rated games, but were encouraged to use our best judgement at the store level. Myself and all of my employees all readily agreed we did not want to sell M rated games to minors without Mom and Dads permission. We would regularly turn away 8, 10, 12 years old unsupervised kids with $50.00 in their hands and tell them go get mom, and expect us to be brutally honest with mom regarding the content of that game. More often than not mom was mad at us for inconveniencing her.

I wouldn't let my child play GTA, but that's not the governments call, its the parents call.

9:27 PM  
Blogger --- said...

I totally agree with you captain, however i would also throw in that we need to focus on open and very straight forward sex education for america's youth so, as what most people would say, 'our kids aren't as easily pressured into careless sex',they would instead be fully educated and would be able to make a safe sound decision. I think all parents should be required to take a sex education course so they can teach their kids instead of relying on the public school system/government.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Captain Corruption said...

Well of course you would Kristen!

Golly, though, are you saying that telling kids not to be naughty or they'll go blind isn't a good strategy?

Why next, you'll suggest there could be better anti addiction tactics than "drugs are bad - m'kay."

11:13 PM  

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